Not long ago, I was speaking on motivating Millennials to a large room full of government contractors when a woman in the back interrupted me. “Can’t we just tell them, ‘Because I told you so?’,” she said. Seriously.
We had been discussing the Millennial need to know “why”, and this woman had grown frustrated with members of her own team who asked questions—often to a point of annoyance. I hear it all over the country. Managers of Millennials are getting frustrated with the seemingly endless questions of this generation: Why do we do things this way? Why don’t we use tablets instead of these clunky laptops? Why haven’t we updated how we order supplies?
It can seem a bit much. After all, how are you supposed to answer all of their questions plus meet the needs of other team members and clients?
Despite the potential annoyance of this “need to know,” the questions many Millennials pose are a powerful thing. I tell companies to be more concerned when Millennials aren’t asking questions. That’s when you start to see them quitting, becoming disengaged and getting bored with their work. An inquisitive Millennial is an engaged Millennial. Find ways to fuel their passion for knowledge while also guarding your time. A few suggestions include:
- Set up a time for Millennials to ask questions. Try Friday mornings by the coffee machine or right after weekly meetings.
- Create a system for questions to be answered. Try an email or message system that you can check on when you have time.
- Challenge them to find solutions to their own questions.
Millennials are looking to you for encouragement to become their best selves. They are coming to you for direction, clarification and context. Here are the key phrases you should never say to a Millennial employee (or any employee, for that matter):
“Because I said so.”
If you act like a parent, Millennials will act like children. Call them up to be responsible adults and show respect to them for their knowledge, experience and insight.
You may be providing what you think is a short explanation, but to a Millennial this sounds like, “Shut up and stop asking questions.” More than that, it sounds like you don’t know the answer and you feel threatened by their curiosity. Take the time to explain the real “why.”
“It’s the way it’s always been done.”
Precedent does not equal efficiency. Millennials have an affinity for building and growing parts of the business and take pride in improving processes.
“We tried that before and it’s never going to work.”
This generation sees the future of the frontier, and does not feel limited by the past. It may be a different time, you have different customers, and there are different technological tools available. Give it a shot.
“Why can’t you act like everybody else?”
The Millennial generation doesn’t feel the need to conform. Unlike Generation X, this generation is large and ready to shake things up. Youth in the past may have melded better into the workplace. But this generation has no problem with redefining what it means to be young and professional. Embrace their individuality rather than punish them for being different than you.
“You are a disappointment.”
This phrase is particularly harmful, especially if you are a parent. Be careful to not attach their worth in life to their performance on a task. This generation has a deep desire to please others (that includes you). Constructive feedback is a more effective tool to improve results. Keep the nasty thoughts to yourself and decide to be a positive leader.
Learn more on how to connect with your Millennial employees and colleagues at Gabrielle Bosche‘s workshop, The Science of Managing, Motivating & Marketing to Millennials, at NADA Show 2018 in Las Vegas. Learn more and view the full workshop and education session schedule at NADAshow.org.
Still need to register? Visit the NADA Show website and reserve your spot today! NADA Show 2018 takes place March 22-25 in Las Vegas.